de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture presents Evangelium Vitae Medal to Dr. Elvira Parravicini

Author: Kenneth Hallenius

O. Carter Snead, Fr. Bob Dowd CSC, Dr. Elvira Parravicini, and Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades
From left: O. Carter Snead; Rev. Robert Dowd, C.S.C., Dr. Elvira Parravicini, and Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades

The University of Notre Dame’s de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture presented the 2024 Notre Dame Evangelium Vitae Medal — the nation’s most important award for heroes of the pro-life movement — to Dr. Elvira Parravicini, founding director of the Neonatal Comfort Care Program and professor of pediatrics at Columbia University Medical Center, at a Mass and dinner attended by more than 500 guests on Saturday (April 27) at the University of Notre Dame.

“In her life’s work providing state-of-the-art medical attention, holistic comfort care, and emotional, psychological and spiritual support to families who receive life-limiting diagnoses, Dr. Parravicini has fought consistently, courageously and with love to heal our vision of these children in the womb — to restore to them the dignity that is their due as icons of the living Christ,” said O. Carter Snead, the Charles E. Rice Professor of Law at Notre Dame and director of the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture.

Dr. Elvira Parravicini profile video screenshot
Click to view a video profile of Dr. Parravicini

Parravicini established the Neonatal Comfort Care Program (NCCP) at Columbia University Medical Center in 2008 to address the complex medical and non-medical needs of infants affected by life-limiting or life-threatening conditions. Today, the NCCP connects families with medical professionals, speech pathologists, lactation consultants, child life specialists, psychologists and chaplains who work together to provide comfort, support and specialized medical care for babies and their families in a compassionate environment.

“I humbly accept [the Evangelium Vitae Medal] in the name of babies and families that I serve, and in the name of my great team here present as well,” Parravicini said in her remarks. “As I always say to parents when I meet them prenatally, my mission is to save your baby’s life, but no matter what, I am walking with your baby, you and your family. I will not abandon you, and I will make sure that we walk together towards your baby’s destiny.”

Prior to establishing the NCCP, Parravicini noted that there was no standard of care for babies who “may not live longer than a few minutes or a few hours after birth.” In such cases, mothers are often counseled to terminate their pregnancy through abortion. Parravicini was inspired to provide another option for the “significant number of parents who want to continue the pregnancy, desire to see their babies, to hold them and enjoy as much as possible their brief but precious lives.” The NCCP provides each child with an individualized plan to create “a safe and loving space for bonding, attachment, comfort and joy for them and their families.” 

“Dr. Parravicini’s rootedness in a radical love of Christ allows her to pour herself out in an overflowing gift to her patients — an act of love that suffers with another, making their burdens, joys and sorrows our own,” Snead said in his remarks. “[She] models what it means to be a true servant of life, to love without condition or exception, without limit or boundary.”

Parravicini is also actively involved with the Center for Prenatal Pediatrics at Columbia University Medical Center, where she provides prenatal counseling and coordinates postnatal care plans for high-risk pregnancies. She works closely with specialists from maternal-fetal medicine, cardiology, pediatric surgery and other disciplines to provide evidence-based, comprehensive care to infants with complex medical problems. 

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend celebrated Mass in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart prior to the medal ceremony and dinner. “We are called to have and to show reverence and love for every human life, entrusted to us by God, the Lord of life,” he said in his homily. “Thank you, Dr. Parravicini, for your witness to the Gospel of Life through your professional service motivated by your faith, your love for God and your love for the little ones!”

University President-elect Rev. Robert Dowd, C.S.C., offered the blessing before dinner, thanking Snead for his 12 years of service as director of the de Nicola Center, and welcomed dCEC director-elect Professor Jennifer Newsome Martin, saying, “The de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture is really an important part of the fabric of Notre Dame. The future is bright, and we couldn’t be more excited.”

Notre Dame Evangelium Vitae Medal
Evangelium Vitae Medal

The Notre Dame Evangelium Vitae Medal, named after Pope John Paul II’s 1995 encyclical, is the nation’s most important lifetime achievement award for heroes of the pro-life movement, honoring individuals whose efforts have advanced the Gospel of Life by steadfastly affirming and defending the sanctity of human life from its earliest stages.

Previous recipients of the medal include Robert P. George, legal philosopher and political theorist; Dr. John Bruchalski, founder of Tepeyac OB/GYN; Vicki Thorn, founder of Project Rachel; the Women’s Care Center Foundation; Mary Ann Glendon, Harvard Law School professor emerita; the Jérôme Lejeune Foundation; the Little Sisters of the Poor; Supreme Knight Carl Anderson and the Knights of Columbus; and Congressman Chris Smith, co-chair of the Bipartisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, and his wife, Marie Smith, director of the Parliamentary Network for Critical Issues.

Announced annually on Respect Life Sunday, the first Sunday of October, the Notre Dame Evangelium Vitae award consists of a specially commissioned medal and $10,000 prize presented at a banquet following a celebratory Mass in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. Visit the de Nicola Center’s website for more information about the Evangelium Vitae Medal.

Originally published by Kenneth Hallenius at on April 30, 2024.